The Scottish Highlands evoke all sorts of Scots stereotypes: tartans; castles; lone pipers; bleak but beautiful heathery landscapes; a sense of tradition; and a stoic pride. Much of this is there to experience and doable in 3 or 4 days, though more time will make it more rewarding. You could easily expand the itinerary below to week, particularly by adding extra days on the Isle of Skye.
The itinerary begins in Perth and ends in Stirling. It’s about an hour’s drive between the two and between either of them and Edinburgh. If you want to start from Glasgow, you’re probably best starting at Aberfoyle and Day 4, then moving onto Days 1, 2 and 3 in order after that.
Whatever you do be prepared for poor weather, winding minor roads and a slower pace of life. The driving times below are just an approximate guide. You’ll need longer when the weather’s poor and to stop for pics along the way.
Follow the Perthshire and Cairngorms itinerary into Scotland’s Highlands.
Follow the brisk A9 road as it snakes its way north for 22 miles, then veer off to visit the mystical Clava Cairns. Follow the The Great Glen itinerary from there to Urquhart Castle. Then carry on along the shores of Loch Ness before following signs to the A87 road and the town of Kyle of Lochalsh. The road winds through barren but beautiful country and past the famous Eilean Donan castle. Some 6 miles beyond, turn off the Kyle road, following signs to the picture-book village of Plockton.
Choose one of the three days in the Skye in 3 days itinerary. Afterwards, take the Armadale–Mallaig ferry (car £20) from the southern end of the island (14 daily in summer; 2 daily in winter). The last sailing is at around 7pm, or take the first sailing at around 9am the next day. (For a 3-day itinerary skip exploring Skye and head straight for the ferry).
Drive from Mallaig to Fort William and then follow the Glencoe and Argyll itinerary as far as Tyndrum. From here take the A85 road to Crianlarich – where you could turn off and explore Ben Lawers – and beyond, to Callander and Aberfoyle. Here you can do as much of the Trossachs and Stirling itinerary as you have time for – taking a boat trip or a cycle ride around Loch Katrine if the weather’s good; focusing more on Stirling-area attractions if it isn’t.